After a shot is made on a deer, the best practise for recovery is to wait at least thirty minutes before approaching the location where the deer was standing. While waiting, make a mental note of that area as well as the last place in which the deer was seen.
Afterwards, quietly approach the area where the impact occurred. Look for any signs of the deer such as tracks, hair, disturbed ground, and blood. Don’t be too alarmed if blood is not found immediately. It often takes 10-30 yards before the blood will begin exiting the deer.
Blood And Hair
The following descriptions of blood provide color and possible impact locations.
- red – liver
- brownish red – stomach or intestinal
- bright red – arterial
- dark red – muscle, leg, groin, hind quarter
- pink red or bubbly – lungs
The following descriptions of hair provide color, length, and possible impact areas.
- white or brown – 1/4 to 3/4 inches – lower legs
- white or light gray – 2 1/2 to 3 inches – groin, stomach, intestinal
- brown or black – 1 3/4 to 2 inches – top of back
- gray or brown – 1 1/2 inches – chest, center hits
- thick dark brown – 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 inches – neck, brisket
- white – 3/4 to 1 inch – front leg
Signs of blood or hair that indicate a lung or arterial impact can be followed immediately and generally will produce the deer within 50 to 100 yards or less. Any other types of impact, it is best to wait 2-4 hours or more before trailing the deer. If the deer appears to be getting up after bedding down, stop and wait several more hours before continuing.
While trailing, use markers to indicate the direction of travel. This is important in case the trail is lost, a longer waiting period is required, or it is or becomes after sunset. On weak trails mark often, stronger trails can be marked less frequently.
If the trail is lost, mark the last signs found. From that point, divide the area into small sections ahead and to the right and left of the trail. Thoroughly search each section expanding the areas until the deer is found or until the trail resumes. Be aware that deer will sometimes circle back, so if a forward approach does not produce further sign, circle around the back trail to see if this may have occurred.
Regardless of how little sign is found, continue to search for the deer until located or until you are certain that the deer is not mortally injured. A slow approach is best and additional help in tracking is suggested.
Deer Hunting Tips – Many times when harvesting a deer, the animal will drop instantly in its tracks. There are also times when a deer will run away or will run into thick cover out of sight. Here are some tips for deer recovery.
The first task on any recovery job is to make sure that a proper shot is made on the deer to start with. Always make shots that provide the most accurate angles and that are within your skill levels. Take your time and make a good shot. It is better to let deer walk than to take a poor or ill advised shot.
Pay attention to where the deer was standing when the shot was made. Use the surroundings, such as a particularly large tree, to mark the area. Often when hunting from a stand, for example, the landscape will appear different once on the ground. By picking out easily visible markers, the hunter will be able to quickly locate where the deer was last seen. This also applies if the deer runs out of sight. Make a mental note of the direction of travel.
How the deer reacts after a shot is made will be a good indicator as to how well of a shot was made. Obviously the best scenario is for the deer to drop immediately. However, even if the deer runs off, the shot may have been adequate. Generally, if a deer jumps up and kicks out it’s hind legs, this is a solid hit. A deer that takes off running quickly is also usually hit well.
Steps to Recovery
- Locate where the deer was standing when shot.
- Mark this spot with landscape tape or bright colored string.
- Look for any signs of blood, hair, tracks, etc. that will provide a direction of travel.
- Slowly begin following such sign marking as you go.
- Make note of what of any found blood looks like.
- Look for blood on the ground as well as any trees, vines, leaves, bushes, or grasses above ground level.
- Make note of any found tracks or trails that may indicate direction of travel.
- Slowly follow blood trails until the deer is recovered.
If The Blood Trail Stops
There will be times when a blood trail stops before recovering the deer. A good approach when this occurs is to mark the last place blood was found. Then walk ahead in the direction in which the previous sign was headed. If this does not result in recovery, start at the last sign and begin a zig zag approach increasing the length and width of movement on each pass through.
If No Blood Is Found
If after the shot no blood is found, it is still wise to locate the direction of travel that the deer left on. There will be times when deer do not begin bleeding right away. Follow the tracks for as long as they are visible. Usually blood will appear within 25 yards or so. If no blood is found after 75 yards or so, most likely the deer was missed. However, on occasion, the deer may bleed internally without ever leaving any sign. Always do a thorough search just to make sure.
Good luck and be safe.
Related: Deer Hunting Tips